The landmark Thomas Chippendale auction at Christie’s in London is one of many events celebrating the 300th anniversary of cabinetmaker’s birth
“A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.” So said Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the Modernist architect par excellence and one-time head of the Bauhaus, who not only was responsible for some of the 20th century’s most influential buildings, but who also knew a thing or two about designing iconic chairs.
In referencing Thomas Chippendale, Mies was commenting on more than just the mastery of the 18th-century English cabinetmaker, whose reputation was made through his designing of furniture for most of Georgian Britain’s aristocratic elite. Chippendale was the first designer to have a style of furniture named after him and, even during his lifetime his reputation was such that he became one of those rare characters – like those other famous Georgians (Robert) Adam, (Josiah) Wedgwood and the gunmaker (James) Purdey – for whom a single name continues to suffice.
In doing so, Chippendale achieved a level of what we would now call “brand recognition”, which has lasted for more than 250 years. He is synonymous not only with a particular type of Georgian furniture, but also with exquisite quality, unparalleled craftsmanship and a sense of style that has never gone out of fashion.
The question of Chippendale’s fame and achievement continues to be relevant, not least because 2018 is the tricentenary of the cabinetmaker’s birth, an anniversary that’s being celebrated in exhibitions at several Chippendale-related stately homes across the United Kingdom and in a special auction that is being held at Christie’s in London on July 5.
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